Closing Opus lecture prepares students for vocations

On Thursday, founder and principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture Steve Garber, addressed a room of students as the guest speaker for the final event of the inaugural Opus series, “Work: For Flourishing.” The event, facilitated by Christian Formation and Ministry internship coordinator Dan Haase, challenged students to consider their future in the workplace as an opportunity for the good of many.
While the event was not a church service, it aided students in creating dialogue regarding purpose and life work, specifically as Christians seeking to address problems in their communities both locally and globally. Garber hoped to continue inspiring students to think of vocation separately from occupation. The institute, Opus: The Art of Work, wants students to recognize that vocation pertains to “God’s call for our work in the world,” according to their website.
The event began with Wheaton associate professor of music Tony Payne and his rendition of Fred Pratt Green’s hymn, “How Clear is Our Vocation, Lord.” Payne’s melodic rework of the hymn was “dedicated to the staff of the Opus program to honor these men and the way they have given their hearts to this campus. They want to see the work go forward.”
Garber’s speech included the story of Jena Lee Nardella, a young woman he met about 10 years ago. At the time, the senior from Whitworth University travelled with several professors to participate in a panel discussion at a conference called “The Faces of Justice” in Phoenix, Arizona. Impressed with Nardella’s articulate speech, interests and concerns, Garber obtained her name and email. When he received a call several weeks later from the band members of Jars of Clay regarding the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa and what to do about it,  Garber connected them with Nardella.
That Christmas break, Nardella wrote a 25 page essay regarding what she would do if she were trying to address the need of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. After her graduation, Nardella moved to Nashville and helped begin Blood: Water Mission, an organization that empowers communities by helping generate clean water in efforts to reduce the spread of disease.
Garber believed that while Jesus said we are part of the world but not of it, we still need to find a way to connect our love for God and our neighbor as ourselves with our call to promote change, which he plainly calls “common grace for common good.”
A realist, Garber recognized how hard it is to love the world knowing what we know. “In a thousand of complex ways, in your heart and mind, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are, we choose to repress or suppress what we know to be true. That is the lens of Romans chapter one and Genesis chapter three. We know what we know, and we know all that we need to know, but we don’t want to be responsible for what we know. We don’t want to connect what we know with how we live our lives,” Garber said.
The event included several prompts for further dialogue among the audience members. Among other questions, audience members were asked to identify ways that Garber’s remarks challenge or explain one’s story, why cynicism is dangerous in a place like Wheaton College and how one can foster hope instead of cynicism or stoicism. Lastly, the audience was charged with a personal application: Knowing what you know, what will you do?
Opus: The Art of Work aims to prepare students entering the stark reality of the workforce. In its first year, Opus plans to generate a new understanding of vocation at Wheaton College from students, professors, staff and alumni.

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